Every week the cast and crew of Hulu’s dark comedy Casual will be taking EW behind the scenes: For each episode, one member will be recapping and sharing their thoughts on what went down in addition to walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. Director and EP Jason Reitman walked us through the premiere and second episode, Michaela Watkins talked episode 3, and now, Tommy Dewey, a.k.a. Alex, brings us into episode 4, “Big Green Egg”…
Our writers and producers have often said that, in some respects, Casual is structured as a long film. Taking that view, episode 204 — “Big Green Egg” — might be considered the transition to the Second Act. And in our world, that’s when the wheels start to come off. Quick episode title tidbit: I (Tommy) have a Big Green Egg (it’s a charcoal-fired smoker that Alabamians like me are legally required to own), and I spoke to Casual creator Zander Lehmann so often and so obnoxiously about my achievements on the Egg, that he worked the Egg into the show… and made my character, Alex, completely clueless as to how it works. Thanks, bud — you’ve brought shame to my family. Moving on…
Written by the impossibly clever Harris Danow, and directed by the wonderful Karyn Kusama (had I seen her superb film The Invitation before working with her, I may have been a little less than thrilled about having her stage this episode’s dinner scene… go see the movie if you haven’t), “Big Green Egg” finds our troubled trio taking another heedful step out into the big bad world. Kudos for their striving, but oh boy, do they need help.
Alex loves distraction — calling it the “universal human motivator” in the premiere of season 2 — and he’s found it in spades as he half-commits to working full time at Snooger’s new parent company, which is overseen by Vincent Kartheiser’s Jordan. By challenging Alex’s ego and ideas, Jordan allows Alex to avoid both a true reconciliation with Valerie, and a reckoning with his own demons. Attempting to fight fire with (literal) fire, Alex throws a barbecue for his new work colleagues, whom he observes to be loyal to Jordan. The plan goes swimmingly…until Jordan shows up with his fiancée, who also happens to be Alex’s ex-girlfriend, Sarah Finn (played to perfection by Britt Lower). So, in seeking distraction, Alex runs right back into his past, and Casual reminds us yet again that, for our characters to find any peace, the past must be properly confronted.
Meanwhile, Valerie continues her mission to be more social, and Michaela Watkins digs into her character’s duality with fascinating nuance. She shows up to a game night knowing full well that it should be a (forgive me) casual affair, but her need to be liked, coupled with a fierce competitive streak, comes roaring out — Valerie might be vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean she won’t crush the spirit of poor One Word Allie. We meet Kyle Bornheimer’s Jack in this setting, and I can’t wait for folks to see where his story goes.
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Laura, for her part, is also exploring friendship. In Aubrey, she’s found an intellectual sparring partner, with whom she can talk out ideas about parents, society, and relationships. But there’s a wariness there — she’s been burned before — and I love watching Tara (Lynne Barr) mix wise-beyond-her-years maturity with cautious curiosity.
So, “Big Green Egg” marks a lot of new (and dangerous) beginnings with great new cast members, while also suggesting that Laura, Valerie, and Alex will come to need each other more than ever as the season moves forward. With Sarah Finn’s arrival, Alex makes a desperate call to Valerie, saying baldly: “Come home. I need my Tonto. My Robin. My Sam…”